Sunday, 20 December 2015

Review - What A Way To Go by Julia Forster

I very recently finished reading What A Way To Go by Julia Forster and honestly cannot get over how brilliant this book was. I think I felt every emotion whilst reading this book - from sadness to hope to happiness but at all times this book was nothing but consistent in that it was beautifully written from beginning to end and I completely fell in love with it. All I hope is that my review can do it the justice that it deserves. 

What A Way To Go told the unforgettable story of Harper Richardson whose parents got divorced when she was five years old. In 1988, and now aged 12, Harper predominantly lives with her mum, spends every other weekend at her dads and is growing up quickly, learning all there is to know about life, love and much, much more besides. 

Told entirely from the perspective of Harper, it didn’t take me long to connect with her and the story she had to tell. She’s an extremely admirable character who, often acting far older than her years, dealt with an array of issues in such a way that even some people much older than her would struggle to cope with. Let’s just say that even at my age I could and did learn a lot from Harper. 

From the minute I picked this book up I was hooked. I did not want to put it down and wanted to spend every spare moment I had reading it and say that this was a very impressive debut novel. I absolutely adored Julia’s writing style which completely transported me into Harper’s world. What A Way To Go offers an insight into what it’s like for a young person to grow up when things around them are less than perfect. At the same time it demonstrates how it is possible to survive the worst of times and how it’s always best to look on the bright side of life. 

Having loved What A Way To Go so very much, I really hope that this is not the first and last book I will be lucky enough to read by Julia Forster. I loved it and feel sure that many others will too. 

I would like to extend my thanks to the Lovereading Book Review Team for organising for me to receive a copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review. What A Way To Go is due to be published in January 2016 and I wish it every success. 

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Review - Fracture by Ryan Mark

Earlier on this year I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Tremor, the first book in a new YA dystopian series written by Ryan Mark. I really enjoyed Tremor and was therefore delighted to be offered the chance to review the second book in the series, Fracture. Needless to say I had high expectations going into Fracture but I can safely say that it did not disappoint me - it was a real page turner that kept me hooked from beginning to end. 

After the drama and destruction that we saw unfold with the tremors in the first book, a year on life is starting to settle down for William and his friends in the Haven Development. However, the peace and quiet is not destined to last for long as trouble is brewing in the form of Enya who cannot forget past events and is very much seeking revenge. 

Throughout Fracture we are reunited with a number of characters who we first met in Tremor but we also meet several new characters along the way, my favourite of whom was probably Tripp who was accompanied by his loyal companion and four-legged friend, Midnight. I also particularly loved catching up with and getting to know William and Althea again, seeing how the bond between the pair has quite clearly flourished since we were last with them. William, Althea, Tripp and Midnight come together in Fracture to form a truly magnificent and formidable team who you cannot help but want the best for. 

Fracture was very easy to become immersed in, something which is undoubtedly due to Ryan’s fabulous writing style which I fell in love with even more as the book progressed. It was a wonderfully descriptive book that was full of intrigue and kept me wanting to turn the pages and find out more. 

Once again, like its predecessor, Fracture demonstrates the power of friendship and hope. It really goes to show how even in the most dire of circumstances we should never lose our faith or optimism and how we should never forget to look out for and help those around us - whether they are friends we’ve known for years or acquaintances we’ve known for mere minutes. 

I strongly believe that this series of books will appeal to a wide audience and highly recommend them to anyone who is looking for something new to try having enjoyed the Hunger Games or Divergent series of books. I’m now just really looking forward to reading what Ryan writes next - it cannot come soon enough!

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Review - A Christmas Tail by Cressida McLaughlin

Everything about A Christmas Tail by Cressida McLaughlin, from the gorgeous cover with plenty of sparkle and glitter to the actual words on the pages, is absolutely superb. I loved every single minute I spent reading this delightful book which I was very grateful to receive from the publishers over at Harper Fiction. A Christmas Tail really was a little ray of sunshine on a cold, dark winter’s day. 

A Christmas Tail is a series of four novellas - Wellies and Westies, Sunshine and Spaniels, Raincoats and Retrievers, Tinsel and Terriers - that all form the Primrose Terrace series and have been brought together in one book. The series follows Cat who, after experiencing a very short career working at a local nursery school, sets up her own dog-walking business. At the same time we see her battling with her feelings for Mark who, it’s clear for anyone to see, has secrets to hide and many troubles - will they live happily ever after together or won’t they?

In addition to Cat and Mark there are many more unforgettable characters who make an appearance throughout and contribute something so special and unique to the series that transforms the story into one with a lot of heart and soul. There is a real depth to the story as we see Cat go above and beyond the call of duty to help and support those living in the community with whatever problems they may have, asking for very little in return. In a world where all too often people are so wrapped up in their own problems that they seem to have little time to help those around them, it was refreshing to read a book where this was not so. 

Prior to starting A Christmas Tail I hadn’t read any of the Primrose Terrace novellas and, despite how good they all were as individual stories, I’m really glad I hadn’t as it was such a pleasure to have been able to pick this book up and read them all in one go. I felt that I enjoyed them all more and gained a lot more from reading them all together than I would have from reading the novellas separately. Furthermore, each novella seemed to lead into the next novella perfectly which allowed the book to flow and made it seem like I was reading one entire novel. 

Reading A Christmas Tail, I laughed, I smiled and I cried (happy tears) and know that the story will stay with me for a long time to come and will certainly become one of those books that I keep on my shelf and re-read every once in a while around the festive period. Upon finishing A Christmas Tail I was so excited to hear that another series was coming from Cressida in 2016 and I now cannot wait to read it!

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

WWW Wednesday - 2 December

I thought I’d take part in WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words which I first saw featured over with Hayley at Rather Too Fond of Books. Anyone can take part by answering three questions and sharing a link to your blog in the comments section of Sam’s blog. The questions are as follows:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next? 

What I’m currently reading now

Fracture by Ryan Mark

Having only just finished reading my previous read today, I’m not too far along in this book but from what I’ve read I can tell it’s going to be a compelling read. This is the second book in the YA Tremor Cycle and I really enjoyed reading the first book in the series, Tremor, earlier this year. 


The Earth is starting to recover from the onslaught of destruction left behind by the tremors and Terrafall. William’s life is settling and he has finally found a place where he feels he belongs. With the opportunity to flourish, the Haven Development has been able to secure the future of its lands and people, bringing forth a period of peace and stability. 

Yet something sinister quakes beneath the surface, hiding in the shadows, unknown to William and the Haven Development. Not a tremor, but a new enemy who threatens to tear apart everything William and his friends have fought so hard to protect. The peace is about to fracture…

What I’ve recently finished reading

Wendy Darling by Colleen Oakes

I finished this book at the weekend and posted a review of it on my blog but this book, a retelling of Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, was full of magic, suspense and intrigue and kept me turning the pages and hooked until the very end. It completely surpassed all of my expectations! 


Wendy Darling has a perfectly agreeable life with her parents and brothers in wealthy London, as well as a budding romance with Booth, the neighborhood bookseller’s son. But while their parents are at a ball, the charmingly beautiful Peter Pan comes to the Darling children’s nursery and—dazzled by this flying boy with god-like powers—they follow him out of the window and straight on to morning, to Neverland, a intoxicating island of feral freedom.

As time passes in Neverland, Wendy realizes that this Lost Boy’s paradise of turquoise seas, mermaids, and pirates holds terrible secrets rooted in blood and greed. As Peter’s grasp on her heart tightens, she struggles to remember where she came from—and begins to suspect that this island of dreams, and the boy who desires her—have the potential to transform into an everlasting nightmare.

A Christmas Tail by Cressida McLaughlin

This is the book I only finished today and I haven't yet had a chance to write up a review of it so don't want to give too many of my thoughts away just yet but this was a gorgeous read that definitely put me in the Christmas spirit. I hope to have my review of it up by the weekend so keep your eye on my blog. 


Catherine ‘Cat’ Palmer realizes that bringing an adorable puppy into work is a bad idea, especially when it gets her the sack. Deciding it’s the perfect opportunity to launch her dog-walking business, Cat enlists the help of flatmates Polly and Joe. After all Primrose Terrace, the street where they live, is full of home-alone hounds.

Getting to know the owners and their precious pooches isn’t all plain sailing, but soon Cat is making friends, particularly with sexy Mark and his Collie, Chips. But is he the right man for her?

With her talent for misadventure, Cat’s new life starts to show some cracks, and when one of the street’s loveable schnauzers gets ill, it looks like this Christmas could be turning into a dog’s dinner. But Cat has never given up on anything in her life – and this is one Christmas that’s definitely worth saving…

What I think I'll be reading next

What a Way to Go by Julia Forster 

I think I'm going to be receiving an ARC of What a Way to Go by Julia Forster, courtesy of Lovereading soon, which I'm really excited for and would like to have reviewed by their deadline of the 20th December so this will be my next read. What a Way to Go is due to be published in January 2016 and its synopsis instantly intrigued me. 


1988. 12-year-old Harper Richardson's parents are divorced. Her mum won custody of her, the Mini, and five hundred tins of baked beans. Her dad got a mouldering cottage in a Midlands backwater village and default membership of the Lone Rangers single parents' club. Harper got questionable dress sense, a zest for life, two gerbils, and her Chambers dictionary, and the responsibility of fixing her parents' broken hearts...Set against a backdrop of high hairdos and higher interest rates, pop music and puberty, divorce and death, WHAT A WAY TO GO is a gorgeous, big-hearted debut novel, a warm, wise and witty tale of one girl tackling the business of growing up while those around her try not to fall apart.

It's been great to take part in this meme. I hope you all have a great week and see you next  time!

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Review - Wendy Darling by Colleen Oakes

I first saw this book - Wendy Darling by Colleen Oakes - whilst browsing Netgalley one day and was so intrigued by it that I could not stop myself from requesting it. I’m so glad I did and feel very fortunate to have been approved by the publishers, Sparkpress, as it really was an outstanding novel that surpassed all of my expectations. 

By all accounts, Wendy Darling lives a relatively normal life in London with her parents and brothers and a love which is growing ever stronger for Booth, the neighbourhood bookseller’s son. However, all that soon changes when, one night, whilst her parents are out at a ball Peter Pan arrives in the children’s nursery and whisks them out their open bedroom window to Neverland. At first it seems like an entirely magical and enchanting place but, the longer Wendy stays there the more she starts to realise that it isn’t the paradise she first thought it was. 

This book is, needless to say, a retelling of Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, a book which I adored as a child and continue to adore today so it was safe to say this book had a lot to live up to. Well, it absolutely did and it turned out to be beautifully crafted, incredibly well thought-through and extremely clever. One of the first things I noticed when starting this novel was that each of the characters did not have the same personalities as those in the original tale and also that the story was not going to have an identical ending to the original. I feel this contributed greatly to the success of Wendy Darling and made it really fresh and unique. 

Regarding the characters I have to say how much I loved little Michael who throughout the novel was a little ray of sunshine particularly in comparison to his brother, John, who was so rude towards his sister that I sometimes struggled to comprehend him. Meanwhile Wendy really grew on me as the novel progressed as a character who knew her mind and was determined to fight for what she believed in and wanted. The many Lost Boys were all individual characters who each contributed something different whilst Tink and Peter Pan were completely not what I was expecting. 

The book was also so descriptive and I think this worked really well. Thanks to this description I was able to picture and visualise everything that was going on and everything about Neverland to the point where it actually became a place I wanted to visit for myself. I definitely would if I could!

Overall, this was a very enjoyable read that was full of intrigue and suspense and kept me wanting more. It was a real page-turner and one which I feel would very much appeal to a wide audience. Wendy Darling is the first novel in a series which just happened to end on a massive cliffhanger, meaning I absolutely cannot wait until the release of the next book which I’m sure will be just as excellent! 

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Review - A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray

I picked up A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray when browsing the shelves at my local library one day and, after reading the blurb, was instantly intrigued. I am so glad I borrowed this book as to put it simply it is an absolutely incredible novel that was completely unlike anything I had ever read before - extremely compelling, utterly beautiful and entirely unforgettable. 

A Song for Issy Bradley tells the story of a Mormon family who are all trying to come to terms with the grief that they are left with following the sudden death of their four year old daughter, Issy. We have the Dad, Ian, who is a bishop in the Mormon church and strongly believes in the power of his faith and doing everything he can to help others, even if it sometimes means not being around for his own family. Then we have the mum, Claire, who finds herself completely unable to cope with losing Issy and cuts herself off from the rest of the world, finding it impossible to accept the strong faith in Mormon beliefs that her husband has always done. Finally, we have Issy’s siblings - Zipporah, Alma and Jacob who, with all their doubts about the Mormon faith, are each devastated by Issy's death and are really desperate to be able to live the sort of lives that their friends at school do. 

This is a book that primarily deals with loss and grief, exploring the way in which different people come to terms and cope with it in very different ways. Having read the blurb of the book before I started reading it, I understood what A Song for Issy Bradley was going to be about and was, therefore, bracing myself for quite a dark and depressing novel but this wasn’t the case at all. There were actually many moments throughout the novel that were very humerous and had me smiling and laughing. 

Additionally the book is very much about family relationships and really quite accurately demonstrates, in my opinion, the way in which the views and beliefs of parents can greatly vary from those of their children and how this can sometimes leave children feeling quite frustrated and resentful. It also deals with the relationship that siblings have and highlights the fact that despite the fact they may argue and bicker, they will always care for and support eachother when they most need to. 

This book was exceptionally well written and really was a stunning creation. Reading the book it was evident that so much effort had gone into every single page and the level of detail was absolutely incredible. Before reading this novel I’m going to confess that I had little understanding of the Mormon culture but quite honestly this didn’t matter in the slightest as everything was perfectly described to the point where I could understand it with ease and I now feel like I’ve really learned something new. 

I really recommend A Song for Issy Bradley which was, unbelievably, Carys Bray’s first full-length novel and will not hesitate to pick up more written by her in the future. Carys Bray is definitely an author to look out for!

Monday, 16 November 2015

Review - Winter's Fairytale by Maxine Morrey

Today I’m both super happy and excited to be bringing you my review for Winter’s Fairytale by Maxine Morrey. I really enjoyed this beautiful novel which left me feeling all warm inside, with a massive smile on my face and I would like to extend my thanks to Cara for having me take part in the blog tour for this book which honestly is a real little gem. 

Step into a winter wonderland and fall in love in the snow this Christmas…
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

A few weeks before Christmas and a sudden blanketing of snow has closed the roads and brought public transport grinding to a halt, stranding Izzy miles from home and in desperate need of rescuing.

That doesn’t mean she’s looking to bump into Rob and spend a cosy weekend holed up in his swanky flat watching London become a winter wonderland! Because Izzy and Rob have history…

Six months ago, they were standing in the vestry of a beautiful country church, while best man Rob delivered the news that every bride dreads on their big day.

But at the time of year when anything is possible, can Rob and Izzy let go of the past and let Christmas work its magic? Or will this be one holiday wish that Izzy lets walk right out of her life…

When the blurb says that Izzy and Rob have history it really wasn’t joking because, as we soon learn upon starting this novel, Rob was responsible for delivering the news to Izzy on her wedding day that she would not be getting married to Steven. Upon having her heart broken Izzy throws a punch which results in Rob ending up with a broken nose - clearly a bit more than he baragained for when he signed up to be Steven’s best man - and subsequently decides its best to sever all contact and have nothing more to do with him. However, six months down the line, when Izzy becomes stranded in a snowstorm and Rob unexpectedly comes to her rescue she’s left with a dilemma - does she let him help or doesn’t she? You’ll have to read the book to find out the answer to that one because I’m not about to go ruining it for you now…

It’s very rare that a book comes along where I love all of the main characters in it, but Winter’s Fairytale really is the exception to that as I really did love both Izzy and Rob. I thought Izzy was great and so emotionally strong in terms of the way she seemed to pick herself up and move on with her life so soon after being jilted at the aisle. It certainly seemed like nothing could get in her way, she was determined to see the positive in and make the best out of everything and was not afraid of working hard and helping others. Rob meanwhile was, in my opinion, nothing short of a gentleman as he was so thoughtful and caring and it was clear would always go out of his way to ensure that Izzy was safe and well looked after. 

This book has the perfect title as it really is a fairytale for adults set in winter which is full of magical moments and beautiful description which really helps to draw the reader in and set the scene. It was one of those books that was written in such a way that I could visualise the scenes as I was reading them and could see how well this book could work as a hit film. I’d definitely describe this book as being a romcom - there were certainly many hilarious moments that had me laughing out loud with a lot of romantic moments thrown in also although, for a very pleasant change, without any sex scenes whatsoever! 

In case you haven’t already guessed by now I really enjoyed this novel and, even though I’m not massively into re-reading books, I would definitely read Winter’s Fairytale again and certainly wouldn’t hesitate to read more written by Maxine Morrey in the future.  A truly sparkling and glorious Christmas read! 

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Review - Dream a Little Christmas Dream by Giovanna Fletcher

I have read every single book that Giovanna Fletcher has written and having just this evening finished her latest release, Dream a Little Christmas Dream, can safely say that she can do no wrong - everything that Giovanna writes is consistently perfect, beautifully written and utterly heartwarming. Earlier this year I read Dream a Little Dream, completely fell in love with it and so eagerly anticipated the release of Dream a Little Christmas Dream. 

Dream a Little Christmas Dream, a short story, really carries on from where Dream a Little Dream left off with the reader being reunited with Sarah, her best friends and boyfriend, Brett Last, again. It’s nearly Christmas and whilst the vast majority of Sarah’s friends are growing up and settling down - starting a family, moving in together -Sarah is starting to feel fearful about her future. More specifically she’s starting to feel uncertain about her future with Brett who is starting to act very strange and is certainly not giving anything away about the direction he wants their relationship to go. If one things for certain, however, it’s that Sarah is determined to find out and she certainly does…

Quite honestly I absolutely loved everything about this gorgeous story. Dream a Little Dream was by far my favourite novel written by Giovanna Fletcher mainly because I loved each and every one of the characters so much and really connected with Sarah. I was therefore so happy to be reunited with them at what is, personally, my favourite time of the year. Despite the very short length of the story, each character was incorporated into the story perfectly with each having a part to play and nobody ever feeling surplus to requirements. 

As you will know from reading my review of reading Dream a Little Dream, I really loved the dream sequences that appeared throughout it and was so glad that they made a reappearance in Dream a Little Christmas Dream. I thought they were fantastically constructed and thought through and once again really took on the appearance of dreams in terms of often being completely surreal and unrealistic. Once again, as with in Dream a Little Dream, they never felt out of place and always led perfectly into Sarah’s waking moments. 

For such a short story this book was absolutely incredible and was certainly not lacking in any respect - there was much humour, Christmas cheer and many aww-inducing moments. It was a real little sparkling treasure and one which brightened up a dull Sunday afternoon and left me feeling nothing except very happy. I cannot wait to read whatever Giovanna Fletcher writes next and really hope that we will one day be reunited again with the fantastic cast of characters that we first met in Dream a Little Dream and were lucky enough to meet again in Dream a Little Christmas Dream. 

In short, Dream a Little Christmas Dream was absolutely superb and I do not hesitate to recommend it!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Review - Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Still Alice by Lisa Genova was absolutely incredible - a brilliant storyline that was extremely well written and beautifully detailed. This was the first book I’ve read by Lisa and because of how much I enjoyed it I’m really looking forward to reading more by her; Love Anthony and Inside the O’briens are two more of her books which both look and sound amazing. 

In Still Alice, the reader goes on a journey with Alice who, not long after we first meet her, is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a condition which she tries so hard but is in the end unable to hide from her family. Despite her mental decline which sees her not only forgetting words but also forgetting where she lives, we also witness her try desperately to maintain her job as a lecturer at a university, one which she loves and has excelled in. However, eventually even this becomes too much for her to continue with and, although she really doesn’t want to, she is left with no choice but to give it up. 

This is an extremely powerful novel which takes the reader on an emotional rollercoaster of a ride with not just Alice herself but her husband and their three children. Between them all they have a lot to cope and come to terms with and particularly difficult for them is striking a balance between caring for Alice and holding down their own jobs and careers. I must admit the character who most surprised me throughout the novel was Lydia, one of the daughters, who by the end of the novel turned out to be so selfless in the act of supporting her mother through the hardest of her days.

I can’t write this review without mentioning more of Alice’s husband, John, who I really struggled to like. When he first heard of his wife’s diagnosis he didn’t offer her much in the way of comfort or support and continued with his life as if nothing had changed - working long hours and almost avoiding spending any time with his wife. I’m afraid I really can’t comprehend why you wouldn’t want to spend as much time as possible with someone you love, particularly when they are so very unwell and in desperate need of support and companionship. 

Through reading this book I feel that I have developed a very real insight into a condition which isn’t often talked about in literature. I think that, often, when people hear Alzheimer’s mentioned they think immediately of forgetting things but actually this book demonstrates how there is so much more to it than that. Also, the whole book was written in such a way that I couldn’t help but feel some of the emotions that Alice was feeling, particularly the times when she felt entirely frustrated. 

Still Alice is a novel which has touched my heart and one which I feel I will remember for a long time to come. I must admit that at first I really wasn’t sure whether this book would be for me but I’m so glad I picked it up as I became immersed in the story very quickly. I certainly didn’t regret reading this and I’m very hopeful that you won’t either. 

Be sure to keep your eyes on this blog where you can be sure I’ll review another of Lisa’s novels in the future. 

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Extract - Snowflakes on Silver Cove by Holly Martin

It’s already time for my final post of #BookoutureXmas and I’d like to start by saying a massive thank you to Bookouture for giving me the opportunity to take part and for all the fantastic books they’ve sent me to review and provide my honest opinions on. Today I’m here to bring you all a very special extract which Bookouture have very kindly supplied me with and I very much hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I did!

Now, in case you haven’t already guessed following my reviews of Fairytale Beginnings and Christmas at Lilac Cottage, I’m a massive fan of Holly Martin and her books. Therefore I’m very happy and excited to be sharing with you an extract from her second Christmas book of 2015, Snowflakes on Silver Cove, which is due out this week on Friday 30th October. So, without further ado, read the extract below and fall in love with Holly Martin’s wonderful writing.

Chapter 1

Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueakBang, SqueakSqueakBang, SqueakSqueakBang, SqueakSqueakBang, SqueakSqueakBang. 
‘OH GOD!’ 
‘OH GOD!’ 
Every morning, without fail, Libby had been woken in the same way.Every morning since three weeks earlier, when the newlyweds, Rosie and Alex, had moved into the flat above her. Then Alex would race out to work, clearly late and with a huge grin on his face.At six Alex would arrive home and two minutes later the same noises would be heard again, occasionally peppered with ‘Harder Alex, harder,’ or ‘Rosie, God I love you.’
Weekends were worse.They’d do it all day. And as today was Sunday Libby was expecting an encore any time soon.
Urgh.Libby decided she hated newlyweds. Only a few more weeks and she would be gone and she wouldn’t have to be woken by the horny alarm clock any more. 
She padded through to the kitchen and switched on the dancing Santa who twisted and jived to some seventies Christmas tune. He made her smile. Her best friend George had given it to her because he didn’t think her tiny tree that sat and twinkled feebly in the corner of her flat was enough in terms of decorations to celebrate Christmas. A singing reindeer, a dancing tree and a serenading snowman had also found their way into her flat in the last few weeks. He had tried to persuade her to take a four-foot-high inflatable musical snow globe the day before, but she drew the line at inflatables. George, it seemed, didn’t have this issue.
As Santa launched into another song, she made two rounds of bacon sandwiches and two mugs of tea.Loading the whole lot onto a tray, she took it over to the table by the lounge window and looked out on the glorious view.
It was that view that had made her move to White Cliff Bay in the first place. She had spent years travelling the world but, although she had sworn she would never stay in the UK again, White Cliff Bay had appealed to her in more ways than any other place had. Today the sea mirrored the first time she had seen it, the weak winter sun glistening on the water in front of her as if jewels were buried beneath the waves. Light snow had fallen overnight, dusting Silver Cove beach with a sprinkling of talcum powder. She leaned her hand on the window and closed her eyes, trying to capture the image in her mind. She would miss this place when she left.
Reluctantly she turned from the view and went to the fridge, reaching for the ketchup. It was obligatory to cover the bacon in a thick layer of it. Then she remembered she had finished the bottle the night before.
Stepping over the newspapers on her front doorstep, she walked across the hallway. Without knocking, she let herself into the flat opposite. She stopped when she walked into the lounge; impossibly it looked even more crammed with Christmas decorations than the last time she had seen it. It wasn’t just the large tree that nearly blocked out the whole window, the room was filled with almost a whole herd of life-size reindeer, a seven-foot inflatable snowman, tinsel, garlands and an army of dancing, singing Christmas characters along with the garish snow globe she had rejected. Christmas music filled the flat as she moved to the festively strewn kitchen and went straight to the fridge to get the ketchup, then followed the sound of music to the bedroom.
There was George Donaldson, topless, dancing round the bedroom with a six-foot inflatable candy cane as his dance partner. She smiled, affection for him filling her heart. He was miles away from the alpha males she wrote about in her books and maybe that’s what she liked about him. There was nothing mean and moody about George Donaldson, he made her laugh a lot. His hair was a messy mop of black curly hair that jiggled as he moved, his body was tanned from days out on the beach. He didn’t have the cut abs and six-packs her heroes always had, but he had a wonderful body with strong arms that gave the best hugs in the world, making her feel safe and adored. She would miss him more than anything once she had gone. She giggled as George took his partner in his arms and moved in to kiss her.
She must have made more noise than she thought, as he abruptly let go of the candy cane, looking guilty and embarrassed. 
‘Libby Joseph! Does a man not have any privacy any more, did you not knock?’
‘Of course not.Now did you want your breakfast or not?’
‘Ah Libby, you will make someone a goodly wife one day.’ He walked past her, planting a big wet kiss on her forehead, grabbed a paper bag by his door and then stopped to scoop up the newspapers on her front doorstep before sitting down at her table, his mug of tea in his hand. 
Libby sat down opposite him, smothering her bacon sandwich in ketchup, and then tucked in.George flicked through the paper for a while before turning his attention to his own breakfast.
‘So,’ he said, through a mouthful of sandwich, ‘newlyweds wake you up again?’
She rolled her eyes and nodded.He smiled sympathetically and turned his attention back to the paper.They sat in silence as they ate.There was no need to make polite conversation; George was her best friend.They could sit like this for hours without feeling the need to force a conversation.Other times they would talk non-stop, only drawing breathto eat some of the delicious food that he cooked for them. And her bacon sandwiches were amazing, if she did say so herself, although it was pretty much the only decent thing she could cook.In the first few weeks of their friendship, she had invited George to take part in several dried-out pasta dishes, numerous cremated roast dinners with unrecognisable meat and, once, some homemade soup that looked and tasted like vomit.After that, they had mutually agreed that he should do most of the cooking.
 She looked across at George and found it hard to believe she had only met him for the first time six months before, the day when she was moving into the tiny block of flats.She had known instantly he was gay.As he came rushing out the flat to help her with her boxes, dressed in a garish pink t-shirt, she had done that thing that all single women do when they meet a nice-looking bloke for the first time.Wedding ring? No. Straight? Definitely not.
And knowing he wasn’t a potential boyfriend and that she didn’t have to try to impress him eased the transition into their friendship very quickly. He was loud, funny, kind and sweet.Over the first few days, as she had got to know him, she became convinced that her suspicions about his sexuality had been right.He had a huge collection of musicals, like Grease, Joseph and The Sound of Music.And instead of a collection of boy movies like Die Hard or Pulp Fiction, he had a vast repertoire of old classics such as Some Like it Hot, Brief Encounter, The Seven Year Itch and Operation Petticoat, dividing his love of Marilyn Monroe and Cary Grant almost equally. His dubious taste in music did nothing to change her mind.
She remembered the conversation they’d had about his sexuality very vividly.They had known each other for about five weeks and had almost been inseparable since she had moved in.Over dinner one night he had quizzed her about past boyfriends. After a thorough grilling she’d turned the tables on him.
‘So are you seeing anyone at the moment?’ she’d asked, biting into the delicious lasagne he had cooked for them.
‘Nah, perpetually single me.’ He’d laughed.
She nodded. ‘I guess it’s tricky though, what with White Cliff Bay being such a tiny town.’
‘Well yes, and most of the residents of White Cliff Bay are over the age of fifty.’ 
‘No, I mean that there isn’t much opportunity to meet the right sort of person round here, you should try Brighton, that’s got a great nightlife.’
He arched an eyebrow. ‘The gay capital of Britain?’
‘Exactly, there aren’t exactly a lot of gay bars round here, I bet there aren’t even any in Apple Hill.’
He had frowned in confusion but she had blindly carried on.
‘Oooh,my cover designer lives in Brighton, he’s gorgeous, hung like a horse apparently, or so says his ex-boyfriend. I could give you his number, get him to take you out to all the best gay clubs, show you a good time.’ She waggled her eyebrows suggestively.
George choked on his lasagne and when he didn’t look like stopping, she rushed to get him some water.She returned a few seconds later and passed him the glass.
He had drunk greedily, then put his glass down and eyed her across the table.‘Libby,’ he’d said firmly, ‘I’m not gay.’ 
It had been her turn to choke on the lasagne then. ‘You’re not?’
He shook his head.
‘Oh God, George… I’m… I’m so sorry, I thoughtthe clothes, the musicals, the old films…’
‘Well you thought wrong. Bloody hell, just because a bloke isn’t sitting around scratching his testicles and watching rugby…’ he laughed good naturedly. ‘It’s OK, though. You’re forgiven.’
She shook her head, laughing at her own narrow-mindedness, suddenly the laugh dried in her throat.
‘Oh God,’ she gasped, her hands going to her mouth. ‘You’ve seen me naked.’
He smirked. ‘Yes I have.’
‘But…’ she was aware she was now flapping her hands around, ‘I didn’t even think about walking from the shower to my bedroom without any clothes on when you were waiting for me in the lounge. I mean, I just thought you wouldn’t care, wouldn’t even notice.’
‘Oh I noticed all right, I just thought you were a very open person.’
‘Oh God.’ She buried her face in her hands.
He laughed, loudly. ‘It’s your own fault, Libby Joseph, that will teach you for judging a book by its cover.’
She had groaned in embarrassment as he continued to eat his lasagne.
She watched him now as he picked up the last crumbs of his bacon sandwich, and smiled. 
‘Oh, I got you something,’ George said, passing over the brown paper bag, before he started singing his own version of ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’. ‘Ten days before Christmas and my true love gave to me, a mug with a picture of the sea.’
Libby smiled. He had started this twelve days of presents two days before when he had presented her with a Christmas pudding onesie complete with a hood with a holly leaf and huge red berries sewed to the top. The day before he had given her a big bag of rum and raisin fudge when they had been shopping in the town, her favourite sweets in the world. She quickly tore apart the paper and pulled out a mug that must have held at least a pint of tea. It was the tackiest thing she had ever seen. It had a picture of White Cliff Bay on the side but it wasn’t tasteful, it was bright and garish in colour. 
‘And look what happens when you pour hot water in it.’ George grabbed her tea and poured it inside. Straight away, lights started to flash all over the mug, including on the oversized lighthouse, and a tinny version of ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ drifted from some internal speakers.
Libby laughed. ‘I love it,’ she said, honestly.
‘Now you have something to remember us by,’ he said, glancing over at a few boxes in the hall and for a brief moment his face fell with disappointment before he slapped on a smile. ‘How’s the packing going?’
‘There’s not a lot to be honest. The flat came with its own furniture. There’s a few books and things I’ve acquired over the last few months that I’ll probably take to a charity shop. I don’t really have stuff, I don’t need it. I came with a suitcase of clothes and I’ll probably leave the same way.’
‘That’s a bit sad, isn’t it? To have no belongings other than the clothes on your back.’
Libby shrugged, happily. ‘Happiness doesn’t come from the things you own, it comes from experiences, the things you do, the places you go to, the people you meet. That’s what fills your life, not material possessions.’
‘And you’ve never been tempted to stay in all those beautiful places you’ve visited, you’ve never once found somewhere you could call home?’
She smiled. ‘It doesn’t work like that for me. I have to travel for work. Being an author means doing lots of research. Wherever my story is set I always immerse myself in that place, eat, drink, sleep, breathe it until the story is finished and I move on to the next place. I’ve always worked like that, I probably always will.’
Suddenly a noise from above them disturbed their conversation.
Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. Squeak. SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueakBang.
They both looked up.
‘Twice!?’ she muttered. ‘Seriously?Do they not have a TV in their flat?’
SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueak, SqueakSqueakbang, SqueakSqueakBang, SqueakSqueakBang, SqueakSqueakBang, SqueakSqueakBang.
George chuckled. ‘They really are loud, aren’t they?’
She pulled a face. 
‘Well come on, Lib, we can give them a run for their money.’ He stood up and pulled her towards her bedroom. Leaving her by the doorway he leaped onto her bed, jumping up and down on it like a trampoline.The bed made a satisfying squeaking sound and the headboard banged obligingly against the wall.
She laughed at him. ‘Oh George,’ she moaned loudly, from the doorway.
‘How long do you think my penis is?’ he hissed. ‘Get over here.’
She ditched her dressing gown and walked over to the bed.
‘Christ, Lib, we’re only pretending, you don’t have to get undressed.’ He stopped bouncing long enough to help her up onto the bed. They both started bouncing again.
‘Oh George,’ she shouted, ‘that feels so goooood.’
‘Oh Libby,’ he groaned.
‘George, harder George. Oh God that’s it George. GEORGE! Faster George.’ 
‘Libby, Libby, OH Libby.’He started jumping faster.
‘Spank me George, spank me.’
He spluttered with laughter.
‘Oh God.’
‘OHHHHHHHHH,’ moaned George, finally falling onto the bed exhausted.She fell down next to him.
‘Oh George,’ she called loudly, ‘that was the best sex ever.You’re amazing, big boy.’
‘Why thank you, Miss Joseph, glad you enjoyed it.’ 
‘No, you’re supposed to say something nice about me.’
‘Oh sorry, erm…’ He thought carefully. ‘Libby’ he said loudly, ‘you have great tits.’
‘Is that it?’ 
‘Well it’s true, you do.’ 
‘Pervert.’ She smirked. ‘I just said that was the best sex ever and all you can say is that I’ve got nice tits? Surely you can do better than that?’
He rolled his eyes.‘Libby,’ he moaned loudly, ‘and Candy my beauty, that was the best threesome I’ve ever had.’
She could barely talk for laughing. ‘Great, now I’m some kind of sex-crazed porn star, excellent.’
‘Glad to be of service.’
‘And if they knew that Candy was that mannequin in your bedroom, they would be worried.’
He chuckled.
They lay in silence for a while to see if there was any reaction from the newlyweds.But there was none.Clearly they had been outdone.
Libby rolled onto her side, propping herself on her elbow to look at him.She smiled at the self-satisfied look on his face, as if they really had just had sex.
‘Fancy a walk?’ she said. 
‘Yeah of course.’ 
‘Well get out my bedroom then so I can get dressed.’
‘Aw, am I never going to get a repeat performance of your nudity?’ he said as he walked out.
‘Nope never.’ She laughed as she closed the door behind him.
‘That’s a shame,’ George said to the closed door, ‘because I really rather enjoyed it.’
Despite it being the middle of winter, the sun was making a desperate attempt to warm up the windy shore. Great gusts tore at their clothes and whipped their hair around them as they walked along the almost deserted beach nestled in Silver Cove.The only other person on there was Seb, throwing a ball into the surf for his beloved fat retriever Jack to collect.He waved at them as they walked.
George loved White Cliff Bay, with its tiny thatched cottages, the bigger townhouses, and the great Bubble and Froth, Seb’s pub, with the best-tasting ale in the world. He especially loved the quieter part of Silver Cove where he and Libby lived.It literally consisted of one straight road with houses on one side looking out on to the sea. There was a pub, a small shop and that was it. A five-minute walk up the hill and over the headland led to the main town of White Cliff Bay with all the local amenities.
He and Libby crunched over the pebbles towards one of the many rock pools that had formed on the beach.She crouched down and carefully lifted one of the big rocks to see what was under it.A small pearly grey hermit crab scurried out in protest at being disturbed and a pale yellow starfish, its legs struck out at odd angles to its body, pulsated against the mossy rock face.
‘I do love the starfish.They’re so beautiful, like a little bit of magic washed up on the beach.’She put the rock down gently, and picked up another one.
He watched her with a smile, her dark hair streaming behind her like a banner, her large green eyes filled with a continual wonder at the varied sea life that ended up on Silver Cove beach every day.
‘If you like starfish, you’ll love the sunstar, now they’re beautiful.I’ll have to take you scuba diving one day, Lib, there’s so much more beauty out there under the waves.’
She stood up. ‘I’d love that. Would we find seahorses? I’d love to see one.’
‘I doubt it – there are some breeds that live round Britain, but they’re so shy and timid I doubt we would spot any.But there’s loads of other things we would see, the visibility round here is quite spectacular.’
‘But doesn’t it take ages to learn?’
‘I can teach you the basics, and I’d look after you. Besides, we wouldn’t be going that deep, only six or eight metres, so if anything went wrong you could just come straight back up.’
‘That would be so exciting, do you have the gear?’
‘No but a mate of mine runs a dive shop in White Cliff Bay, he’d lend me what we need.’
‘Be a bit cold though, would we wear wetsuits?’
‘Are you kidding, in these waters?We would die.It’d have to be a drysuit, and a thermal undersuit and your clothes under that.’
She laughed. ‘I’d look like a Michelin Man.’
‘Yeah. It’ll be better in the spring, warmer and the visibility is nicer too. If you stay until then I promise to take you.’
‘Maybe I can come back and visit you when it’s warmer.’
‘That would be great,’ George said, knowing in his heart that once she left at the end of the year he’d never see her again. They never spoke about that though. She insisted that they would stay in touch, but there were no friends in her life, no one she spoke to from her travels. When he had put his number in her phone all those months before he had been stunned to see her contacts list consisted of her agent and her publisher. It was easier to pretend they would still be friends than confront it, it was easier to ignore that when she left it would completely and utterly break his heart.
He carried on with the fa├žade. ‘You have to spit in the mask to stop it from steaming up too.’
Her face fell. ‘Spit in my mask?’
He wiped a tiny splash of muddy water off her face, then quickly stuffed his hands in his pockets as he walked away from her. ‘Yeah, and no matter if you get the best-fitting mask in the world, you always get a bit of water that seeps through, which means when you take the mask off you’ll be left with a snotty residue across your face.’
She caught up with him, picking up a good-shaped pebble for skimming. ‘I get the feeling scuba diving isn’t the sexiest sport then?’
‘No definitely not, still keen?’ He turned to face her.
He loved that about Libby: her spirit of adventure, her boundless energy.In fact he loved every little thing about her, and had been completely in love with her ever since he first set eyes on her.
Unrequited love, he was quite the expert. As it turned out even his ex-wife hadn’t loved him. 
Libby, of course, had no idea about his inappropriate feelings for her, how he loved her with everything he had. 
He glanced over at her, her smile lighting up her face, her eyes reflecting the colour of the sea. It was about time he got over Libby. She just didn’t see him that way. Nothing was ever going to happen there, she was leaving in just over two weeks. By the end of the year he was determined he would be over this silly little crush and he could watch her leave without her ripping out his heart on the way out.
They walked back towards the flats, a large old house that had long ago been converted into four separate apartments and given the rather original name of ‘Sea View Court’.
George spotted a small van parked up outside.An older man was lifting a box out the back.
‘Giselle?’ the man called. ‘Giselle? Where do you want this one to go?’
A blonde girl ran down the steps wearing leggings, which showed off her wonderful long legs, and a tiny knitted jumper, which showed off her tiny waist.George swallowed.Her hair was cut short with a long fringe that swept over her eyes, but it gleamed in the sun, like gold.Her eyes were huge, an amazing intense blue.She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.He knew without a doubt this was the woman he was going to marry. The easiest, quickest way to fall out of love with one unobtainable woman was fall in love with another.
‘Oh thanks, Dad,’ the blonde vision said, ‘just put it in the lounge. I’ll sort it out once it’s all in.’
‘Hey, do you want some help?’ George asked, quickly leaving Libby’s side.
‘Oh, that’d be great, thanks.’ Giselle broke into a heart-stopping smile. 
‘I’m George.’ He held out his hand. ‘I live at number two.’
‘I’m Giselle, and I’m on top of you.’ She tucked a strand of golden silk behind her ear. ‘I’m moving into number four.’
He ignored the innuendo for the sake of future relations. ‘Excellent.’ He took the hand that was now extended towards him and shook it warmly, just as Libby arrived at the back of the van.
‘Hi, I’m Libby, I live at number one, here let me take those,’ she said indicating the pile of books tucked under Giselle’s arm and he watched her take them, and then she was gone. He wondered what they looked like standing there, him and Giselle, smiling at each other awkwardly.Well, Giselle was smiling awkwardly, he was grinning like a Cheshire cat.A Cheshire cat on Ecstasy. 
For the next half an hour, they worked diligently between them to get all of Giselle’s stuff into her flat on the second floor.There wasn’t a lot, but what there was, he noticed, was very tasteful. There was also a lot of weird cooking paraphernalia which Libby found out was used for making different kinds of sweets for her online business. 
Eventually, the van was empty and Giselle’s dad left. 
‘Thank you so much,’ Giselle said warmly, ‘you’ve both been very kind. But now, well, I guess I better go and unpack. I’ll see you around.’ 
She disappeared up the stairs and George stared after her in wonderment.He heard her flat door close and then quickly bundled Libby into her flat.
‘George, what are you doing?’
‘Oh Lib, she’s beautiful.’ He leaned against the inside of the door and sank to the floor.
‘Yes she is, very.’
‘Libby, I think I’m in love.’
She sat down next to him and gave him a playful nudge. ‘Then go and ask her out.’
‘Are you mad, have you seen me?’
She frowned. ‘George, you’re lovely.’
‘Lovely is a polite way of saying fat.’ He absently patted his belly.
‘No, it’s not, you’re lovely and funny and incredibly attractive, ask her out.’
‘No, I need to lose some weight first, and get a haircut, maybe some new clothes.’
‘But then you won’t be you any more. This is you, and you’re perfect the way you are, anything else will just be a disguise.If she’s going to fall in love with you, she needs to fall in love with the real you.You above anyone else should know the pitfalls of false advertising.’
Writing radio adverts for a living, George knew how to sell chocolate to the Easter bunny, if only he himself could be presented in such an appealing way. 
‘You’re right, Lib, she should fall in love with the real me.’ He looked down at himself, despondently.
‘Hey! You’re the loveliest, most wonderful, sweetest, kindest person I know; if she can’t see that then she’s blind.’
He kissed her head. ‘Thanks Lib.’
She stood up and pulled him to his feet. ‘Go on then, ask her.’ 
He paled. ‘Now? No, I can’t ask her now.’
‘Yes you can.’
‘Well what do I say?’
‘You say, “Hi Giselle, I figured you might be tired after all this unpacking, do you fancy coming to the pub for something to eat? The Bubble and Froth does a mean steak and kidney pie.”’
He nodded, yes he could do that.That was easy.Very casual, very simple.He opened the door and walked purposefully up the stairs and caught Libby doing a little giddy victory dance for him before she shut the door. 
He climbed to the top of the first flight then hurried back down again, but before he reached the bottom stair he forced himself to turn around.He climbed four stairs this time, stopped, climbed one more stair then ran back to the safety of Libby’s flat. 
Her face fell as he came back in. ‘What happened?’
‘Yeah, I couldn’t do it.’
‘Well what if she said no?’
‘What if she didn’t?’
He shrugged. ‘Maybe I’ll leave it a few days, you know, let her settle in.’
‘Maybe you should get in now before someone else swoops in. Why don’t you practise on me?’
‘Close your eyes and ask me out, imagine I’m a beautiful woman.’
George smiled wryly – he really didn’t need to imagine that – but he closed his eyes anyway.He could still see her though, in his mind, looking pretty in her jeans and hoodie, and funky purple boots.She had a quirky style.When she was writing her romance stuff she always had at least one pen in her hair.And though the hoodie she wore today was an old grey one, she had pinned to it the most beautiful emerald sequinned flowered brooch.It matched her eyes exactly.Though this was not helping him to prepare for asking Giselle out.
He opened one eye and looked at her expectant face.When nothing was forthcoming, she rolled her eyes and ushered him out of the flat.
‘Knock on my door and ask me out.’
‘OK, role-play, I like it,’ he grinned, ‘though I’ll get changed first, smarten myself up a bit.’
She shrugged. ‘If it will make you feel more comfortable.’
As George disappeared back to his flat, Libby switched on her laptop and smiled at the tiny snowman that had been placed next to it since the day before. George was clearly determined to Christmassify her, whether she liked it or not. The computer pinged to life and she opened up her current story, set in a rural seaside town at Christmas. Her publishers had expected it to be handed in months ago but for some reason this story had stagnated on her laptop. She had no desire to finish it and she didn’t know why. She was famous for her romance stories, especially Christmas ones with snow, glitter, handsome heroes and gorgeously cosy love stories, but it was the romance parts she was having trouble with the most. 
There was a knock on the door and she went to answer it, ready to be seduced.
George was standing there in a full tuxedo with black tie, and gleaming cufflinks.She nearly laughed except he looked so vulnerable.
He cleared his throat, straightened his shoulders, fixed her with a sultry stare. ‘Hey little lady, fancy getting out of this hellhole and hitting some gin joints with me?’
She suppressed a laugh, but he had already seen the smirk.
‘Too cheesy?’
‘Very cheesy. Humphrey Bogart?’
‘No, that was all me.’
‘You’re overthinking it.’
‘What about the suit?’ 
‘You look fantastic, really suave, really sexy, but a tiny bit overdressed for a pint down the Bubble.’
He arched an eyebrow. ‘Sexy, eh?’
She smiled. ‘Yes, if we were going to Royal Ascot together, I’d be proud to have you on my arm.’
‘Right, I’ll remember that next time I get offered free tickets for Royal Ascot. You can be my date.’
‘Definitely, though you should know I’m a terrible loser and a really bad gambler.’
‘I’ll hold the purse strings that day then.’
She nodded. ‘Probably wise.’
‘Shall I try on something else?’
‘Yes, please do.’
‘Good, this collar is killing me.’ 
‘I’m impressed that you can do up a bow tie though, it’s not something many people can do.’
He took it off to show her it was a clip-on.She laughed, as she closed the door.
She walked back to the computer, her fingers hovering over a rather bland description of the sea. It wasn’t just romance scenes that were taking a battering, all of her latest writing lacked sparkle.Because she had no enthusiasm for the romance, the rest of it hung limp and flaccid on the pages too.
There was another knock on the door just as she was poised to write something descriptive and wintery about the trees that lined the beach.
This time George was dressed in a black suit, with a black shirt and tie.
‘Going to a funeral?’
‘Right of course,’ he said, looking a little apologetic.
‘How about something that shows your sporty side?’
‘Right, OK.’ He trudged off.
She closed the door again – not that it normally stopped George, but making him knock was all part of the role-play.
She went back to the computer, looked over the last paragraph she had written and sighed. 
Another knock on her door.She doubled over with laughter when she opened it.
‘What?’ mumbled George, though she could see that he was trying not to laugh as well. He was dressed in a skin-tight wetsuit which accentuated every gorgeous curve of his strong body, with a mask and snorkel in his mouth and flippers on his feet.
‘George, it’s perfect,’ she said, clapping her hands together, trying really hard to keep her eyes above his waist. ‘Now let me see you manage the stairs in those things.’
He waddled carefully to the foot of the stairs and carefully placed his left flipper sideways on the step.With great effort he managed to put his right flipper sideways on the next one up,looking like a very bizarrely dressed Charlie Chaplin.

It was at this moment, as he struggled to move his left flipper up onto the third stair, that Giselle came running down the stairs towards him.

Sounds good doesn’t it? It’s certainly got me hooked and I just know we’re in for yet another treat here courtesy of Holly Martin. I’ll definitely be reading this soon so keep your eyes on my blog where I’ll be sure to post my review!